Inflatable Planetarium

The inflatable planetarium, made by Lauren Ard, is an educational tool that teaches students in elementary and middle school about astronomy. Students crawl into the planetarium, which is made out of a black-out fabric, is blown up by a fan, and displays different constellations by a projector.

Courtesy photo

Once a middle school science teacher and now a mother of two, Lauren Ard continues to use her passion for teaching astronomy by doing presentations at schools or for friends and family with her handmade inflatable planetarium.

The inflatable planetarium is used as an educational tool used to teach kids about astronomy through displaying different constellations. It is circular in form and made out of a black out-fabric. A fan inflates it and a projector is set up on the inside to display the different types of constellations. It is 12 feet in diameter and fits around 15 people inside it.

“In some ways it’s more exciting for the kids than going to a planetarium because they can crawl right into it,” said Ard. “It (the projector) cycles through all four seasons showing all the constellations.”

The idea of making an inflatable planetarium started back in 2007 when Ard was teaching science at Sierra Middle School. The school and others like it did not have money to spend on field trips for the students, making a field trip to the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium was not possible. Ard wanted her students to experience astronomy in a fun way so she went online to look up ideas and found the inflatable planetarium.

Ard’s inflatable planetarium turned out to be a success as she presented it to her own class and over time did presentations for events, friends and families and a couple of schools. She did the presentations for free until hearing that the Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium wouldn’t be doing theirs anymore.

“I heard that the Flandrau Science Center had cuts in funding and they used to do 30 minute presentations with their inflatable planetarium for people where they charged $130,” said Ard. “They had waitlists, but because of cuts in funding they no longer offer it. I wouldn’t charge that much and I’m not trying to get money from publics schools, but more it’s a way for me to use my teaching talents.”

With the opportunity to do more presentations, Ard is using kick-starter, a website that helps fund launch small businesses, in order to try and raise money to build a bigger and better inflatable planetarium. People who donate money to her project will receive some sort of reward in return from what she makes.

“I think my project of creating a bigger planetarium is a great kick starter because there are a lot of people out there who would love to have me come to their schools and give a presentation.”

She started a project on May 22 with hopes to raise $3,900. People can donate money by clicking here:

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